Putting yourself out there is not an easy thing to do. It takes guts.
So, what happens when you find the courage to put yourself out there… and someone criticizes you?
I was inspired to write this post (and start a brand new podcast series) because this recently happened to me. I’ll share my personal anecdote and then offer some takeaways you will be able to apply in your own life. Hopefully, what you read here will help you become less reactive and deal with criticism in a healthier, more empowered way.
The World is Ending
Recently, my podcast got its first two-star rating. (Gah!!) In case you don’t follow or care about ratings, podcasts get reviews and ratings on different platforms. There’s a lot of debate about whether these are useful because they can be easily gamed. But, they can also be helpful in letting potential listeners know whether a podcast is generally good.
For me, as a perfectionist and someone who strives to create content that’s useful, applicable, and valuable, seeing this two-star rating was extremely triggering. I won’t sugarcoat it. It felt like the world was ending. (Catastrophizing? Yup!)
Now, after the fact, I’m willing to be vulnerable about this. Obviously, it’s not my favorite thing to admit that someone didn’t like the podcast or disagreed with my ideas or found my voice irritating. Or maybe they were having a bad day. Or maybe they listened to an episode that wasn’t exactly my best work. I don’t know the reason for the rating because there was no feedback that went along with it, so I can only guess.
What really matters, though, is the can of emotional worms that this situation opened up within me. When we get triggered, as I’m sure you know, we get reactive and our inner shadows come out.
This is what happened in my case.
My stomach dropped, I felt sick, I wanted to run and hide and erase myself.
I questioned whether I’ve been creating bad work. I wanted to stop doing the podcast altogether and delete all past episodes. This was an irrational response (ummm… yeah) fueled by feelings of inadequacy, shame, anger, and self-doubt. These aren’t unfamiliar feelings to me because I’ve felt them before on my path of spiritual entrepreneurship. And I’m sure I will feel them again.
For a full day, I wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear. It was so uncomfortable to feel all of those feelings. I also wanted to lash out or defend myself – very egoic reactions to receiving criticism.
What I did instead was to find 3 other podcasts that I’ve been listening to and left them 5-star reviews. I let them know how valuable their work has been to me. It felt good to turn things around and channel my feelings into support of other people’s efforts and willingness to offer something to the world.
The Courage of Going Out on a Limb
It takes a lot of courage to decide to put yourself out there – whether through a podcast or blog or starting a new business or even just by deciding to tell someone how you really feel about something.
Going out on a limb in this way generally doesn’t feel natural. Your survival brain wants you to play it safe and not take any chances. So it can literally feel, in your body, like you’re putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Your sympathetic nervous system gets triggered, leading to an increased heart rate, sweaty palms, and the feeling that a lion is about to devour you.
Then, being criticized when you do put yourself out there can feel like the worst has happened. Your fears are confirmed. The lion has eaten you! Your suspicions that you aren’t good enough, that your work is stupid, that no one likes you – all of these are confirmed. That’s what makes your stomach drop and your mouth go dry. That’s what triggers the impulse to run and hide, and what brings up the feelings of shame.
For me, to reduce the stressful activation that I was feeling in my body, it was helpful to remember a couple of things.
Release Your Attachment to Wanting to Please Everyone
First, not everything you create, or say, or do will resonate with other people. Not everyone will like what you offer – whether that’s a podcast, blog, service, or you sharing your feelings in the context of a relationship. And this has to be ok.
Your work, your words, your energy are not for everyone. You will never please everyone.
Trying to please everyone actually makes you tone yourself down, avoid being fully yourself, and move through the world like a chameleon. You just adapt to whoever you’re with and whatever environment you find yourself in.
I know you don’t want to live that way. I know you’re committed to being real, being you in a powerful way. That’s not going to happen if you go around people-pleasing or watching everything you say and do to make sure it doesn’t rock the boat. That’s soul-sucking.
Now is the time to rock the boat as much as you can.
To be outrageously, unapologetically, and profoundly yourself. In all situations. How others react to you is none of your business. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use constructive criticism, of course. (I would’ve loved to actually know what that two-star rating was really about. If it was about something that I can improve and use to make the podcast better, that would be extremely valuable to me.) We can always seek to improve, to do better work, to refine our message and ideas – but we can’t focus on pleasing everyone.
Don’t Be Vanilla*
*No offense meant if vanilla is your favorite flavor!
Second, this situation reminded me that I don’t want to be vanilla. I don’t want to have a flavorless, middle-of-the-road, people-pleasing podcast. I want to use the podcast as a vehicle to express what really matters to me and what really matters to my ideal listener. This person is someone on the spiritual path, deeply committed to their own healing, deeply invested in walking the talk and having integrity and doing the work.
My ideal listener is on the same frequency as what I have to offer. And that’s the only person I will seek to engage with, to offer value to, and to connect with on a deeper level.
When you put yourself out there, in whatever way, I want you to remember that it’s ok to ruffle some feathers. It’s ok if others disagree with you. Please hold on to the truth that it’s really important for you to be fully yourself in the world.
For me, this means examining the places where I’ve been kind of vanilla – the places where I haven’t really risked anything or taken any chances. I want to turn that around by expressing myself more and more authentically. Without apologizing or worrying if I’m pleasing everyone.
For you, this could mean doing the same.
Maybe we both need to add some more color or texture or richer flavors to whatever it is we’ve been putting out into the world. Not everyone will enjoy what we put out there or even how we express ourselves, but that’s ok. Dare to be yourself. Your true friends, fans, and soulmates will strongly resonate with you the more you are yourself.